Can Chores and Work Be “Me Time”?!

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Categories Making Time for Me, Parenting, ToddlersTags , 2 Comments

As a part-time working mom of triplet toddlers my most consistent version of “me time” typically consists of doing things I have to do anyway, but doing them by myself! I am an early intervention physical therapist and drive around quite a bit to do home visits. Some of my coworkers complain about all the drive time, but sometimes that is one of my only moments of solitude and I cherish it! Sometimes I listen to music or NPR, but most of the time I am listening to podcasts that I downloaded on my phone. It’s really kind of lovely sometimes to just drive in silence as opposed to driving while singing “ABCs” or “Happy Birthday” 500 times in a row! I think the lives of MoMs generally tend to be pretty overstimulating so embracing a bit of quiet time, wherever you can find it, can be so refreshing!

On my days home with our triplet toddlers, naptime is as close as I get to me time. The naptime “to do” list is always long and sometimes I get so caught up in the business that I forget to enjoy the solitude! I am working on this and when I am mindful of it I find that I appreciate and enjoy naptime even more. I love to cook, so I try to make that a naptime job (at least the prep work) because cooking is actually fun for me when I don’t get pulled away to referee a toddler spat every couple of minutes! Sometimes I’ll even sit down (gasp!) and watch a show on Netflix while I fold a couple loads of laundry.

Some days I remember partway through the nap that I should be appreciating this time. On those days when I’ve been in go-go-go mode I try to take 5, maybe even 10 minutes, to just sit and take a few deep breaths and do something relaxing. Sometimes that means scrolling through my Facebook feed; other times it means sitting on our deck with an iced coffee and just being. The trick I have learned is that I have to stop and do this in the middle of naptime and not be under some illusion that I can get three more things done and then sit because inevitably when I do that the moment I sit down is the moment I hear one or more toddlers waking up!

My other “go to” me time that I only manage to do a couple times a week is to get up early before the kiddos wake up. For a while one of our trio was consistently waking at 5:30 or 6 but then going back to sleep; that was a great time for me to get up and have a little time alone. But that only works for me if I actually went to bed early and got a decent night’s sleep so it definitely doesn’t happen every day. When it does, though, it is often one of my favorite times of day. I can make a pot of coffee, cook a delicious breakfast, and maybe even sit in the hammock and drink my coffee without reheating it five times! That is often my best time to write too. Sometimes I only get five minutes and then this

IMG_20150811_072229

turns into this…

IMG_20150813_195342or this…20150809_082030but, I love this time too and I know it’s going to be gone way too fast!  So I’m also going to embrace this mommy time!

 


Making Time for Me - a series on mothers finding time for themselves in the middle of the insanity of parenting and lifeFrom August 31 to September 4, 2015, How Do You Do It? is running a series on “me time” for mothers: why we need it, how we make it, what we do with it. Find the full list of posts on the theme week page.

Have you blogged about mommy time on your own blog before? Are you inspired to do so now? Link your posts at our theme week link up! We’ll do our best to share them on Facebook,Pinterest, and Twitter with the hashtag #metime.

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Toddler Thursday: Toddlers and a Clean House? Choose Your Battles

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We are about 2 or 3 years out since the toddler years, but I remember those days very clearly. I’ve got twin boys and their older brother, who is two years older. In the early days, when the twins were babies and not walking, it was a bit easier to keep our household clean. My biggest worry was whether or not the main floor washroom and front hall were presentable for guests who came often. The rest of the house stayed pretty orderly and clean.

As my two year old became more independent and turned three and the babies turned into one year olds, crawling and cruising around, playing with more toys and progressing to solid foods, my priorities began to change. Feed three kids and wait to clean up the disastrous mess on the floor and the dishes and play with them to keep them entertained, or feed them, clean the mess, wash the dishes for 20 minutes and let the kids entertain themselves with their toys or a TV show? I often chose to hang out with the kids and let the mess wait. I’d get to the mess…eventually!

Messes build up fast, however, so I also tried to pick the spots I wanted to keep “mess free” or as mess free as possible, because my boys seem to leave a trail of stuff here and there, no matter how hard I try! I didn’t have the energy to be constantly cleaning every room of the house. There are three of them and only one of me!

So I chose my battles. I chose the rooms I was willing to see get a bit chaotic and messy, such as the TV room, which quickly became the toy room, because I could see it from our kitchen and know the little ones were safe, while I did take care of other business…like nursing my cold cup of coffee at a distance.

Aside from that mess under the highchairs and the piles of bottles and sipToddler twins in high chairspy cups in the sink waiting to be washed, the kitchen was a “mess free” zone. I kept it kid free and mess free if we were not having a meal. I was not the mother who allowed my kids into the cupboards and bottom of the stove to pull out pots and pans to clang on for hours on end. They had other noisy toys in the toy room just for that reason! I kept a baby gate up so there would be no toddling or crawling throughout that mess free zone. Pots and pans strewn across my kitchen floor would have been yet another mess to have to take care of and for any mother of twins or more, you know the minutes in the day seem to whiz by and before you know it it’s time for you to go to bed. I did not have time to be picking up these random messes in every room of my house.

Other ways I tried to contain the mess included:

interlocking mats
As found on www.walmart.com

Using foam interlocking mats beneath the twins’ high chairs, which worked as a catchall and were easy to either sweep or pick up and shake off outside or in the sink and wash down. Sometimes I’d throw them in the tub and soap them up for a really good wash, then air dry. They were really helpful with avoiding constant mopping of the kitchen floor.

I chose to keep the pile of toys contained in decorativstorage boxe closet boxes, such as sweater boxes, which looked like they were just a decorative part of the room. I stacked them at the end of the couch, which was farthest from the toy room (aka TV room) entry and the least visible spot.

I am sure there are many other ways to keep a house orderly when you have little toddlers going two or three different directions all day long, but these were a few of my proven and favourite ways to go about it.

Moving forward in life, when toddlers grow to school-agers, I can’t say that containing the mess gets any easier and the messes will begin to move into other rooms, but you can always strategize, strategize, strategize new ways to fight the mess!

Yet there will always be the kind of day where you’re getting ready for work and come out of your closet area doing the “I just stepped on a Lego Storm Trooper head” painful dance that will remind you that you can’t always win the battle of the mess.

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An Ode to Parchment Paper

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Oh, who am I kidding?  I’m a busy twin mama.  I have no time to compose odes!

But I do want to share something I’ve discovered over the past year or so that’s made my life as a busy twin mama infinitely easier…parchment paper!

Admittedly, I feel a little silly, having just discovered parchment paper.  I grew up with a mama who loved to cook and bake, AND I worked in a bakery during high school.  But…I had never bought any parchment paper until last holiday season.

It only took a time or two, and I am a complete convert.

Using parchment paper makes baking -- even with two eager "helpers" -- so much easier!
Using parchment paper makes baking — even with two eager “helpers” — so much easier!

For any cookies…biscuits…breads…rolls I bake, I line my baking sheet with parchment paper.  (It is found by the aluminum foil in the grocery store.)  I used to have an almost superstitious attachment to my favorite cookie sheet, one that is nearing 20 years old, one for which I have not been able to find a duplicate ANYWHERE.  Now, though, any of my baking sheets work perfectly ever single time.  AND my clean-up time has been reduced exponentially.  Now most of my pans just get a “courtesy wash”.  I haven’t had to soak a baking pan in over a year!

Over the weekend, I made meatballs for the first time in over a year.  (We all love meatballs, but this busy twin mama doesn’t much love the squish of ground beef between her fingers…shudder!)  I broke out my trusty parchment paper to line my baking pans.

Suffice it to say, I may be making meatballs more often.  I still had the squish of ground beef to deal with (shudder!), but with my parchment paper in place, I wasn’t left to soak my pans for hours, then to still have to scrub them clean.

Dear parchment paper,

Where have you been all my life?

I am deep in love.

OK…I couldn’t pull off an ode, but I think this qualifies for a really bad haiku.

What’s your easiest time-saving trick in the kitchen?

MandyE is mom to five-year old fraternal twin girls.  She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

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So Many Clothes, So Little Time

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What would you do if you had three days to yourself? Sleep? Read? Take the world’s longest, bubbliest, hottest bath? Go to Vegas?

My twin daughters, M and J, spent Memorial Day weekend in El Paso with their dad, stepmom, grandparents, and stepsisters. Daddy and Grandpa picked them up immediately after school on Friday, and Daddy and Grandma dropped them off at home around lunchtime on Monday.

I had that entire time to myself. After work on Friday, I went to a happy hour/pizza dinner with my coworkers to celebrate the successful completion of a key project. On Saturday morning, I went to the gym. On Saturday evening, I went over to a coworker’s apartment for game night.

The rest of my time off, I did housework. Don’t get me wrong. I did sleep in and take that long bath, too. My focus of the long weekend, though, was trying to get my house under control. I scrubbed my bathrooms and kitchen to sparkling. I tackled the nightmare that is my daughters’ room. I organized my pantry. I vacuumed and mopped. I put clean sheets on all the beds and washed the dirty ones. I unpacked a couple of boxes from our August move from El Paso to Central Texas. I washed a regular weekend’s quantity of laundry.

I folded laundry. And I folded laundry. And folded laundry. And folded laundry. And folded. And folded.

And I put the laundry away. Cool weather clothes got packed up in old bedding bags; that packaging is perfect for long-term storage. A few clothes that the girls have never worn, a precious few they’d outgrown, and a few tops I’ve outgrown went in the charity donation pile. Everything else went on a hanger or in a drawer.

I watched the hours tick by while I folded and stored our linens and clothes. I waved goodbye to the hours I’d hoped to spend baking thank you cookies for the girls’ teachers and after-school counselors. I lingered a longing glance on the time I’d hoped to spend reading. I spared, once again, the lives of weeds towering over me in the back yard. I kissed goodbye to the time I’d planned to spend redoing my photo wall. I’d hoped to frame some of the girls’ artwork and intersperse it among the photos.

I wondered whether we really needed all the clothes we own. One thing about having very small kids who don’t grow very fast is that they can wear the same clothes year after year. After 3 winters, our collection of size 4-6 tights finally kicked the bucket, with their knees racing the toes to the first to surrender to the holes that would inspire my child to yell, “Dead tights!!” Some of the girls’ oldest leggings have suffered the same fate.

My daughters are incredibly easy on their other clothes. Despite my best efforts to find loving homes for clothes that the girls never wear, my kids have enough clothes to consume most of my three day weekend. I don’t even have to sort between their clothes. They share everything but panties, and even that is because they have different preferences. J can’t stand to have elastic touching her skin, so she has to have Hanes panties with a fabric-covered waistband. M loves her days of the week panties. I picked them up on a whim, and had to turn around and get two more packages when she declared her undying love for them; they were the first panties she’s never expressed a fear of falling off.

I digress. They have one small drawer stuffed to overflowing with pajamas. Another bulging drawer houses panties and socks. We have a large dresser drawer for tops, and another for bottoms. Dresses, light cardigans, and dress up clothes fill the girls’ clothes rack. I don’t use the closet rod in the girls’ room because they wouldn’t be able to reach their clothes. Instead, a free-standing clothes rack from Ikea sits inside the closet at its shortest setting.
Drawers are filled to the brim with small clothes.

This doesn’t seem like an unreasonable quantity of clothes for two young American middle class children, but it’s nuts to take care of. It certainly beyond my capacity. My favourite quadruplet mama named her blog the right thing: Buried in Laundry. My girls might not be happy about it, but I suspect that we could get by with far fewer items of clothing. No, I know this to be true. In Bangladesh, where I grew up, it was the norm for all but the richest to receive two new outfits per year.

So why do we, in the developed world, spend so much of our time, money and energy on clothing? My 7-year-olds have already absorbed our culture’s adoration of a varied closet and would never wear the same outfit twice within two weeks, perhaps even a month. My ex-husband was horrified at how long I could keep my clothes. He constantly talked about chucking all my clothes and buying me an entirely new wardrobe, but I couldn’t go there. It seemed like the silliest expenditure of money I could imagine. Don’t get me wrong. I love window shopping and cute clothes. I love to wear clothes to fit my mood, to suit the weather, that make me feel confident and competent and pretty. I don’t need the cute clothes, though, and every new item is something else to add to the laundry insanity that’s already beyond my control.

What’s the secret to staying to keeping your closet manageable? How much clothing do your kids have?

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It Gets Better, Especially When You Don't Clean

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When our twins were infants, it would annoy me when other MOMs told me that it would get better.  It was tough, certainly, but it wasn’t “awful” during that period so I didn’t really understand why they kept telling me it would get better.  Then the twins passed 2 1/2 years and OH MY GOSH, did it ever get better.  My husband and I felt like we came up for air for the first time in, oh, 2 1/2 years.  We didn’t even know we were under water before we took those big gulps of air consisting of an easier bedtime, small steps in self-sufficiency, and the ability for the twins to play with each other and older kids in our neighborhood for longer periods of time.  Truly, we look back at the period as the dawn of a new era that we continue to enjoy.

That said, what we did to take advantage of our new found freedom is sort of crazy.  We doubled the size of our vegetable garden, decided to raise chickens for eggs (if you are on the fence about chickens, we totally endorse this), adopted two kittens, and we both began to craft and enjoy our hobbies.  I also began to start running again for about an hour a day, which is singularly the thing I do that spoils me most.  I love exercising and had missed it for many years.

I should mention that I am employed full time and at mid-career, which means increasing job and mentoring responsibilities.

How do I do it?

I do not clean. And I mean that seriously.  I know some of you all say that and perhaps you mean it’s time to change the towels in your bath or you haven’t put away all the clean dishes.  What I mean is that our house is a freaking mess. And while it bothers me, it obviously doesn’t bother me enough to choose cleaning over running/gardening/knitting/chickening/kittening.  There is no way we can afford any help to clean up the house until the twins get out of daycare and we pay off the associated credit card debt in 4 more years or so.

So our solution?  We have parties!!  Yes, it is like killing two birds (but not chickens!) with one stone.  We get to socialize and it forces us to clean the house a few times a year.

I really feel like MOMs get special dispensation in some area of their lives.  For us, we choose to forgive ourselves for living in a messy house.  It makes it so much easier to survive and thrive with our little bunnies.  Our children.  We call our children bunnies.  We would not actually get bunnies.  They would destroy the garden.

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The L Word

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While I was pregnant with the twins, I did a lot of reading.   I didn’t read too much on multiple pregnancy itself, as it scared the you-know-what out of me!  Tons of negative and downright scary information.  Instead, I focused mostly on the challenges I would face once the babies were born.  I read about breastfeeding, feeding schedules, sleep training — all the tough stuff.  Although I would never sit here and tell you I was prepared for what was to come (because who the hell could be?), I will say that I had a vague notion of my impending challenges.  However, there was one topic that was woefully overlooked and/or underdiscussed in all of the books, blogs, and newsletters that I got my pregnant paws on.

The L Word.  Think about it for a minute, ladies.  You all know what I am talking about.

Wait for it…

Wait for it…

LAUNDRY. 

Holy @#*&!  Why did no one discuss this, like… ever?  Why did no one advise me to buy a house with a built-in laundry shoot??  Because, let me tell you: I would have seriously considered it.  To any of you out there who have a laundry shoot, please don’t brag.  I am ridiculously jealous.  Over the past two years, I have stepped over (and on) dirty clothes and hurdled baskets full of clean laundry like an Olympian. 

Yes, no one so much as casually mentioned that two babies equals at least double the laundry than a singleton.  And neither one of my girls had reflux.  Oh, you poor, poor souls who experienced reflux laundry.  There is a spot already reserved for you in Heaven.

I think the sudden barrage of laundry in my home was especially surprising and/or challenging to me for two reasons: 1) Prior to having twins, I probably did the laundry once every two weeks, or as long as I could possibly scrape by without buying new underwear (and I openly admit to doing so on more than one occasion!);  and,  2) I have never EVER in my life spent so much time and energy on the act of doing laundry.  Before twins, I would just toss a bunch of stuff (colors, whites, who cares?) into the machine and call it good.  Now, I pre-treat every.damn.thing with my beloved Oxiclean spray AND I add a heaping cup of the Oxiclean liquid to every load I wash.  That stuff is magic, I tell you.  Magic.   I mean,  a typical outfit in our house is stained beyond all recognition by 5pm, assuming it is dark enough to mask the stains from lunchtime. 

Since leaving my job at the end of June, I have become a lot more focused on laundry and on establishing a good system so as not to have clothes strewn about the house waiting for me to either pre-treat and wash or fold and put away.  You see, I have no problem tossing the clothes in the washing machine and/or transferring them to the dryer; it’s the before and after parts that really get my goat.  Truth be told, it has been much easier to keep up with the laundry now that I am no longer working outside the home.  But, still, my system could use some improving to be sure.  

So, how do you handle laundry for multiples?  Any ideas or advice from those of you who aren’t hurdling laundry baskets on a daily basis?  What’s your secret?

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